Brief recap: This is the “Sweet 16” of what I determined to be the 16 greatest single-season teams in Minnesota sports history. I limited my prospective candidates to teams that play at the highest possible level of college or professional sports. There were 16 numbers chosen at random for the 16 teams. The team assigned No. 1 “played” the team assigned No. 16, and so on. I set these up at random instead of truly “seeding” the teams because this would be pretty boring and predictable if I seeded them. We’re now down to the Final Four:
• 1976 Vikings vs. 1987 Twins: Winner — 1987 Twins. All you need to know about the 1987 Twins and how much they meant to the state of Minnesota could be witnessed on Oct. 12, 1987. The Twins had won the American League Championship Series in Detroit earlier in the day on a Monday. Their charter flight arrived around 10 p.m., and players then headed to the Metrodome for a welcome-home celebration with fans. Twins officials expected about 5,000 people to show up, according to a Star Tribune story from the time.
Instead, more than 50,000 people were on hand, cheering loudly and waving Homer Hankies. Twins players took turns thanking fans in a genuine display of two-sided admiration. All of this was before the team even won the World Series, which it would do by winning all four home games against the Cardinals. This was bigger than any Vikings Super Bowl appearance, and it earned the 1987 Twins a spot in our title game.
• 1991 Twins vs. 2003-04 Gophers women’s basketball: Winner — 1991 Twins. The Gophers’ Final Four appearance in 2004 made a lifetime star out of Lindsay Whalen and galvanized the sports fans in this state like few events have done. But just like that dream season, the team’s run ends here in the Final Four, two games shy of a championship. It’s not just that the 1991 Twins went from last in the AL West in 1990 — 29 games behind Oakland — to winning their second World Series title in five years.
What truly puts the 1991 Twins over the top is just how amazing the seven-game series with Atlanta was. Several games in the series, including, of course, Games 6 and 7, were edge-of-your-seat theater. Capping things with a 1-0, 10-inning home victory and Jack Morris’ masterpiece in the finale? There’s no doubt this is one of Minnesota’s greatest teams of all time.
• Coming Friday: The championship game, a showdown between two World Series winners … plus reader comments on the teams that didn’t make the cut for the Sweet 16.